Bidirectional effects of toddler temperament and maternal overprotection on maternal and child anxiety symptoms across preschool

Kristin A. Buss, Anna M. Zhou, Austen Trainer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Introduction: Existing research highlights interactions among child temperament, parents' own anxiety symptoms, and parenting in predicting increased risk for anxiety symptom development. Theoretical models of child-elicited effects on parents have proposed that parents' behaviors are likely not independent of children's temperament; fearful children likely elicit more protective responses from parents and these parenting behaviors reinforces child anxiety and parents' own anxiety. Method: The current study tests this model and examines whether there are bidirectional influences between early fearful temperament (i.e., dysregulated fear [DF]), maternal overprotection, and subsequent trajectories of maternal and child anxiety symptoms across early childhood. A total of 166 children and mothers participated in a multimethod, longitudinal study of temperament risk from 2 to 6 years. Results: Results largely support our hypotheses, replicating and extending the prior literature. DF was associated with more maternal overprotective behavior, subsequent child anxiety symptoms, and maternal anxiety symptoms. Moreover, there were indirect (mediated) associations through maternal overprotective behavior and both child and mother anxiety symptoms. Conclusion: Results support the hypothesis that intergenerational transmission of anxiety was meditated through maternal behaviors and that the child-driven temperament effects are central to trajectories of child and maternal anxiety trajectories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1201-1210
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and anxiety
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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